January 31, 2019

Governor's policy and budget leaders speak at 2019's first Lobby Lunch

By: Andrew Lenderman   Comments: 0
Drew Shirk, the executive director for legislative affairs for Gov. Jay Inslee, and David Schumacher, director of the Office of Financial Management, speak to AWB members during the Lobby Lunch held Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019, at AWB's office in Olympia. (Photo: Brian Mittge/AWB)

The 2019 legislative session is off to a fast start, and part of the reason lies in Gov. Jay Inslee’s ambitious policy agenda.

Two members of the governor’s executive team met with employers Thursday to kick off AWB’s 2019 Lobby Lunch series.

Drew Shirk, executive director of legislative affairs, described 19 high priority bills for the governor’s office, from more investments in early childhood learning to clean energy and a new public option in the healthcare arena.

“That’s a huge agenda,” Shirk said.

Shirk also addressed the timing behind it. He pointed out that the current session is the last budget-writing session for Inslee’s current term. The governor was elected in 2012 and re-elected in 2016.

“This is the last biennium of the second term,” Shirk said. “So regardless of other things that people might be thinking...We have a clock as well.”

Early learning is a high priority of the governor, Shirk added. He pointed to research that shows investments in early learning can pay off strong dividends for society later on.

“Every dollar that we put in up front will hopefully reduce our costs later on in our education, in our public assistance, in our criminal justice, in our mental health,” Shirk said.

Early learning is a priority for employers, as well. AWB sponsored an Early Learning Summit last year in SeaTac, where educators, employers and advocates gathered to share best practices and work on solutions to help families and create a more stable workforce.

Thursday’s event also featured David Schumacher, director of the Office of Financial Management.

Schumacher addressed Washington’s record tax collections, which are about $50 billion right now.

He said even that does not quite pay for the government we have right now, let alone add new programs.

One of the biggest drivers of the budget now are the public education commitments that were made in the last budget cycle to address the McCleary court decision.

“The bills were passed but they were not fully-funded until this biennium,” Schumacher said.

In a typical year, the growth in the budget to maintain K-12 education is about $1.5 billion, he said. This year it’s about $4 billion, or a difference of $2.5 billion.

He also mentioned 3 percent salary increases for state employees, fully funding a college grant program and a new healthcare program for school employees as factors driving the budget.

Inslee’s budget proposal relies on a new 9 percent capital gains tax, an increase in the B&O tax on service businesses and an increase in the real estate excise tax. AWB’s position is that state government can operate within the $50 billion in current tax collections, and not raise taxes on the employers and entrepreneurs that create jobs and new products.

AWB’s Lobby Lunch will continue throughout the 2019 legislative session at the AWB offices, located at 1414 Cherry Street SE in Olympia. The next lunch is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 7.

Please contact AWB’s Liv Johnson at 360.943.1600 to register for the next Lobby Lunch.